During spring 2009 a Swedish senior paediatric intensivist and associate professor was detained and later prosecuted for mercy-killing a child with severe brain damage. The intensivist was accused of having used high doses of thiopental after having withdrawn life-sustaining treatment when the child was imminently dying. After more than 2.5 years of investigation the physician was acquitted by the Stockholm City Court. The court additionally stated that the physician had provided good end-of-life care. Since the trial it has become evident that the accusation was based on a problematic medicolegal report. Nevertheless, the event has had severe negative consequences for the physician personally and professionally, and probably also, in general, for patients in the final stage of life. This case illustrates, together with other cases, that there is a lack of correspondence between ethical soft law/healthcare law and the Penal Code. To optimise medical practice we suggest that the criminal law be carefully examined and if possible changed. Furthermore, we suggest a peer-review system for assessing medicolegal reports in cases of suspected homicide.
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